“Peace Officer” Looks At The Dangers Of Our Militarized Police, Through The Eyes Of An Ex-Law Officer

April 25, 2017 — William J. “Dub” Lawrence’s background is impressive. He was a Marine and the youngest sheriff ever elected in Davis County, Utah.

In 1975 he also founded his state’s first SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) program. 30 years later, that same SWAT team would shoot his son-in-law to death after an 8-hour stand-off. This controversial killing set Lawrence on a new path. He began investigating the incident — and several other SWAT actions as well.

Peace Officerthe award-winning documentary, follows Lawrence as he looks into the raid that killed his son-in-law. He is a seasoned investigator and he is on a mission. 

The incident started with a domestic disturbance. The situation escalated when police officers swarmed a quiet residential neighborhood to deal with Brian Wood, the husband of Lawrence’s daughter, who had barricaded himself in his pickup truck. His family watched as he was hit with gas, rubber bullets, flash and pepper grenades and a taser. Lawrence had assumed that the officers understood the best way to handle the situation and told his daughter and his grandson to trust them. But as Lawrence’s son-in-law lay incapacitated in his driveway, a sniper shot and killed the unarmed man. The family witnessed the entire episode.

The police would claim he committed suicide. A later investigation forced them to admit that this had not happened.

After that, Lawrence quit working as a lawman and started running his own sewage cleaning system (“It’s a lot less stressful,” he explains). He also started investigating the incident involving his son-in-law. That investigation led him to look into other incidents around the country.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Lawrence would obtain the evidence gathered by the various police units. Through his background as a investigator, he uncovered information which enabled him to reach conclusions that some of the other investigators missed — or chose to overlook.

Filmmakers Scott Christopherson and Brad Barber have chosen to look at the larger issue of the militarization of the police in general. Over the last few decades, law enforcement has used ever more violent methods; training for police has taught tactics that are designed to overwhelm and take down possible culprits first and ask questions later. Military-grade weaponry is now standard issue; officers drive around in Humvees. Since 1997, Congress has authorized arming police officers with military grade arms.

The filmmakers also speak with those who believe that this build-up actually saves lives. But Lawrence respectfully disagrees with this point of view. He states, “It does not appear that the police are going to change unless they are shown this is an error, this is wrong…“I don’t think mankind is equipped to tolerate injustice forever.” 

This insightful documentary film won both The Grand Jury and Audience Awards at SXSW.

The Blu-Ray and DOD are available here.

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